We are back to the A Block for night three. Looking at the card in advance, the card didn’t scream excitement, but there’s still enough to be interested in. Most notably, there is a rematch of my favorite G1 match last year, Ishii vs Goto. A lot of people preferred Okada vs Nakamura or Tanahashi vs Nakamura, but I loved how hard hitting and aggressive Ishii vs Goto was. We’ll see if they can come close to what they did last year.
Hiroyoshi Tenzan vs Tama Tonga: Tenzan continues his retirement tour with a match against the Bad Boy of the Bullet Club. Tenzan won his last match against Ishii, while Tama came up short against Makabe. Tenzan will be fighting with a lot of emotion, which gives him a pretty strong edge on anyone. At least until he loses. Tonga meanwhile continues to prove that he deserves to be in the G1.
Tenzan’s Mongolian Chops may be the most copied signature move in New Japan. Everyone he fights just loves doing them to him. Tonga is much faster then his older opponent, and is able to use that to his advantage several times. I enjoy that every time Tonga hits Tenzan in the head, he hurts himself. It’s a very simple thing that makes Tenzan’s headbutts seem even more devastating. Tonga displayed several moves I hadn’t seen him use before, like a spear and a rope-assisted neckbreaker. Tenzan pays tribute to his friend Kojima, and hits a Western Lariat before finishing Tonga with a moonsault. ***
Tomohiro Ishii vs Hirooki Goto: As I said earlier, this was my favorite match in last year’s tournament. Their situations are very different now though. Last year, Ishii was still in the NEVER title picture, and Goto was Intercontinental Champion. Since then, Ishii has lost a lot of his matches, and Goto lost his fighting spirit, eventually joining CHAOS. Now as stablemates, the two sometimes form an indimidating tag team. It remains to be seen if they go at each other has hard as they did last year now that they are on the same side.
Well, they start out with stiff clotheslines and elbow, so it’s good to see they’re not holding back. A large part of this match is exchanging strikes and clotheslines as each try to outman the other, and when one of them finally gets knocked on their ass, it’s a big deal. Ishii is able to gain advantage with his headbutts, which Goto had no answer for. They fight each other in the suplex position to get their finishers off, and Goto gets the advantage, dropping Ishii on his face and finishing with the GTR neckbreaker. Not as good as last year, but very watchable. ***1/2
Naomichi Marufuji vs Bad Luck Fale: Marufuji got a huge upset in Night 1, beating IWGP champion Okada clean as a whistle. Fale fell to Goto, but will remain a threatening presence this entire tournament. Fale specializes in taking down main eventers, and there’s no one quite like him in Pro Wrestling NOAH, where Marufuji is king.
These two go nose to nose, Marufuji using his chops and Fale replying with forearms. Marufuji shows no fear early on, but Fale takes control quickly with his power. Marufuji is able to send the big man reeling with a series of viscious kicks. He goes for the shiranuai multiple times, but Fale is able to power out of it each time. The crowd pops big as Fale teases the Bad Luck Fall, but Marufuji escapes, only to be caught with a grenade. ***
Kazuchika Okada vs SANADA: SANADA also got a big upset in Night 1, making Tanahashi tap out. I can’t really overstate how huge a deal that was. Now he has a chance to sweep the two biggest names in New Japan. SANADA cost Okada the IWGP title a few month ago, and while Okada got his revenge already, there’s no doubt there is still unresolved tension between these two. I’ll be interested to see if Okada loses any of his cockiness that cost him in the opening round.
Spoiler alert: Okada is still cocky. This is a typical Okada match, starting out slow with the heel beating down Okada early. Okada and SANADA work very well together though. SANADA teases Skull’s End several times, which gets a great reaction after it made Tanahashi tap out in Night 1. Like most Okada matches, this one ends in thrilling fashion, signature moves being countered left and right until Okada counters the Skull’s End into a German suplex and the Rainmaker clothesline. ***1/2
Hiroshi Tanahashi vs Togi Makabe: Tanahashi is coming over an upset defeat from newcomer SANADA, while Makabe won his first match against Tama Tonga. Makabe goes under the radar for a lot of people. He’s arguably the most known wrestler to mainstream Japan, so him winning and main eventing is a huge surprise. Just don’t expect him to make much noise after the first week or so of the tourney.
The crowd is firmly behind Makabe here, as they are close to his hometown. This allows Tanahashi to work subtly heel, which he does so well. They proceed to have an unremarkable match. It’s fine, but nothing special. They go back and forth, and it’s certainly one of Makabe’s better single’s matches, but it’s nothing we haven’t seen before. The end is very good though, with Makabe struggling to use the Spider Suplex, while Tanahashi holds on for dear life, followed by the King Kong Knee Drop. Tanahashi sells so well at the end that it really pushes the moves over the edge. ***1/2
Night 3 was very average. No real stand out matches, nothing to go out of the way to see, but nothing bad either. An easy watch, but the best is still to come for many of these guys. Night 4’s card doesn’t look super great, but I have high expectations from Toru Yano vs Kenny Omega. Should be ridiculously silly and over the top. So far the G1 has been about upsets. Once the cream starts rising to the top though, the matches should be getting much better.